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God and Subjectivity.

Galgan wants to write a biography of being, and the character witnesses are Aristotle, Anselm, Descartes, and Feuerbach. The main points are that Anselm is a pivot between a classical and modern view of God in first philosophy, and that modern philosophers gave up the search for God by claiming to have found God to be man. Thus God was replaced by subjectivity--our subjectivity. The book is not a textual study, but does give a fairly close commentary on texts of Anselm, Descartes, and Feuerbach.

Chapter 1 considers Aristotle's notion of the subject of first philosophy and the sense in which it is theology. Chapter 2 analyzes Anselm's meditation on first philosophy in the Monologion. Chapter 3 analyzes Anselm's dialogue with God in the Proslogion. Chapter 4 studies Descartes' new foundation for knowledge as witnessed in the Meditations. Chapter 5 considers Feuerbach's reduction of first philosophy to anthropology in Lectures on the Essence of Religion and The Essence of Christianity. Chapter 6 sums everything up with a note on how the problem of evil haunts the modern scene.

Aristotle sets the course for first philosophy. Two views of what substance means to Aristotle are cited and seen as not necessarily contradictory. The first is Joseph Owens' view that substance in the first place means divine substance; the second is Werner Marx's view that with Aristotle for the first time the individual is that which is actual (p. 16).

Anselm's ontological argument includes the transformation of the first philosophy of Aristotle and the grounds for the Cartesian refounding of first philosophy. Anselm represents that fundamentally different Christian perspective on God and the world. For Aristotle, God is a part of the universe; for Anselm, God is outside this universe and thus able to create the universe. The subjective character of the ontological argument prepares for the subjective character of Descartes' first philosophy. It does not seem to be Galgan's intention to discuss Anselm's ontological argument qua argument for the existence of God, though some indication of his thoughts does come in the last chapter when he explains that the moderns have misunderstood Anselm's argument by treating Anselm's "negative idea as if it were positive or descriptive of what God is for God" (p. 219).

Descartes is a reversal of Anselm, such that now one understands in order to believe (p. 103). Anselm's God which cannot be thought not to exist is a precondition for Descartes' "human subject that cannot think beyond the impossibility of its own existence." In contrast to Anselm's dialogue, Descartes' philosophy is a solitary meditation.

Feuerbach is indebted to Descartes for the subjective turn in philosophy, for he reduces first philosophy to a study of the human subject. He is also indebted to Anselm's finding of the image of the Trinity in man's remembering, understanding, and loving. Feuerbach reverses Anselm by seeing the triune God as the projection of the human mind.

The final chapter treats of the following: the misunderstanding of Anselm by the moderns, the fact that Anselm's thought still stands as an unconscious precondition for their subjectivity, the modern effort to do away with mystery, and the problem of evil. The problem of evil is an ancient one that moderns such as Feuerbach have not been able to dismiss; Galgan suggests that the problem of evil is the "inverse reflection of a Being that has brought beings 'out of' nothingness" (p. 253).
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Author:Foster, David Ruel
Publication:The Review of Metaphysics
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 1993
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